This is the time of year when families huddle together to watch their favorite Christmas films. For those who don't have movie collections they can draw from, television stations normally pick up the slack with plenty of holiday fare.
Santa Claus, it turns out, is a role sought out by many of Hollywood's best character actors. Some, like Tom Hanks and Alec Baldwin, were merely content with lending their voice to the role. Many others, though, have donned the traditional custom or a reasonable facsimile to give us their take on ol' Saint Nicholas.
Here are eight actors, in chronological order, who have offered modern interpretations of the North Pole's most famous resident.
1. Tim Allen -- The "Home Improvement" star carved a mini-career as Santa with "The Santa Clause" in 1994, followed by sequels "The Santa Clause 2" in 2002 and "The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause" in 2006. The first entry in the trilogy found Allen, portraying toy company executive Scott Calvin, discovering at his house Santa's abandoned costume, sleigh and reindeer. Allen stepped into the role of Santa with ease, producing big box office results.
2. Leslie Nielsen -- The late master of spoofs such as "Airplane!" and "The Naked Gun" series played Santa in the 2000 television movie "Santa Who?" Nielsen's Santa suffered from amnesia and had an encounter with a TV reporter. Talk about double jeopardy.
3. Edward Asner -- In the 2003 film "Elf," the "Mary Tyler Moore Show" veteran portrayed a Santa who accidentally transported a baby from an orphanage to the North Pole. This happened because the baby crawled into Santa's toy sack. Fellow cast members included Will Ferrell, James Caan, Mary Steenburgen and Bob Newhart.
4. Billy Bob Thornton -- With a title such as "Bad Santa," which was released in 2003, viewers knew they weren't going to see an ordinary Santa. Instead, they were treated to Thornton, the Academy Award-winning writer of "Sling Blade" who played a devious shopping mall Santa. Thornton's real character was Willie T. Stokes, an alcoholic who was more prone to take things that didn't belong to him rather than give gifts away.
5. George Wendt -- Norm of "Cheers" fame also played Santa in "Santa Baby," a made-for-TV movie released in 2006. When he feels under the weather before Christmas, his successful businesswoman daughter is called in to save the day.
6. John Goodman -- Goodman, who starred in "Roseanne" and numerous Coen Brothers films, played Santa in the 2006 remake of "The Year Without a Santa Claus." Goodman's Santa initially refused to deliver toys on Christmas eve because he lost faith that children believed in him. Goodman came to change his mind, thanks to a kid named Iggy.
7. Paul Giamatti -- The two-time Golden Globe winner portrayed Nicholas "Nick" Claus in "Fred Claus," a 2007 feature film that also starred Vince Vaughn as brother Frederick "Fred" Claus. The feuding brothers go their separate ways, with Nicholas giving gifts away while Fred becomes a repo man. Kathy Bates, Rachel Weisz, Kevin Spacey and Miranda Richardson rounded out the case.
8. Paul Sorvino -- The versatile Sorvino, who played a mobster in "Goodfellas," Henry Kissinger in "Nixon," and a police sergeant in TV's "Law & Order," portrayed Santa in the sequel "Santa Baby 2" in 2009. As Santa, Sorvino experienced on-the-job burnout in this made-for-TV movie and was ready to turn over his duties to his daughter, who was played by Jenny McCarthy. She played the same role in "Santa Baby."